Under the theme, “Called to Action,” the Holston Annual Conference passed a resolution of commitment to save 100,000 lives by raising $1 million in the coming year for Imagine No Malaria.
Members representing 897 churches in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia also sent about 9,000 kits and buckets of food, school, and health supplies to Liberia and Zimbabwe. They overwhelmed the two large ocean-carrier trailers they pack each year for Africa, necessitating (for the first time) a third trailer to accommodate the goods.
Members also gave an offering of $96,372 for Vietnam victims of the war chemical Agent Orange. They gave $61,372 to children’s ministry through “Change for Children,” half designated for Imagine No Malaria, the other half supporting children’s ministries in Holston. An unannounced additional offering raised $11,768 for Imagine No Malaria -- which at $10 per bed net to protect a child from malaria-bearing mosquitos – will save 1,176 lives, leaders said.
The 1,920 members of the Holston Annual Conference dedicated much of their gathering to learning about and lifting up “Vital Congregations” and celebrating the ministry of Bishop James Swanson, projected for reassignment this summer after eight years as resident bishop.
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In other actions, members:
- Endorsed the Rev. David Graves, current Kingsport District superintendent, as episcopal nominee in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
- Approved a $9.55 million budget for 2013 -- less than the approved 2012 budget of $10.6 million and the adjusted 2012 budget of $9.9 million.
- Welcomed Moses Kumar, general secretary of the General Board of Finance and Administration, who thanked Holston for paying 100 percent of general church apportionments.
- Welcomed Bishop Fritz Mutti and his recognition of Holston as the leading annual conference in giving to the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Holston has donated 10 percent of $3.5 million raised, said Mutti, campaign chair for 20/20: Visioning an AIDS-Free World initiative.
- Learned that the Congregational Development Ministry Team has committed $100,000 to build four new churches in South Sudan, now in progress.
- Learned that the Holston Conference Foundation awarded $47,654 in ministry grants this past year.
- Approved the Commission on Equitable Compensation’s recommendation of a 4 percent increase in minimum salary levels for 2013, the first increase since 2009.
- Learned that the Board of Trustees has sold more than $1 million in “surplus property” for the benefit of districts, new church development and revitalization. The Holston Conference Holding Company was established and is currently holding or transferring 11 properties.
- Celebrated the Ministry of the Holy Spirit congregation at First United Methodist Church of Sevierville, one of the fastest-growing Hispanic congregations in the denomination.
- Celebrated the Holston Home for Children’s report that a total 800 children were served in the last year; 37 completed high school diplomas or G.E.D.s; 16 were adopted; 110 were reunited with birth families; 34 made first-time professions of faith; 49 were baptized; and 28 attended camps last summer through scholarships or private donations.
- Kicked off “Healthy Holston,” a pension board initiative, with free biometric screenings for conference health insurance participants and twice-daily organized walks for all.
- Participated in Vital Congregations plenary sessions led by the Rev. Drew Dyson, chair in evangelism and assistant professor of practical theology, and the Rev. Lew Parks, professor of theology, ministry, and congregational development, both at Wesley Theological Seminary.
- Worshipped with the Rev. Kim Cape, general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, who preached at the ordination and commissioning service. “Go in obedience to where you are sent,” she said. “Christ is the savior, not you, and you will be reminded of that over and over again in your ministry.”
- Participated in a Call to Action plenary session led by Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. “We want the next 40 years to be drastically different than our last 40 years,” he said.
- Presented the Denman Evangelism Awards to Molly Kate Brannock (youth); Rev. Jerry Russell (clergy); and four camp directors (lay), John Erdman of Wesley Woods, Jason Onks of Buffalo Mountain, Michael Snow of Dickenson, and Don Washburn of Lookout.
- Presented the Francis Asbury Award for higher education to Martee Buchanan, director of Radford University Wesley Foundation.
- Presented the Living Stone Award for smaller membership churches to Ironsburg United Methodist Church, Tellico Circuit, Maryville District, led by the Rev. Bill Clark.
- Congratulated the Rev. Roy Howard, winner of the 2012 Ministry of Memory Award from the Historical Society of the United Methodist Church. Howard is the first Southeastern Jurisdictional member to receive the award.
- Congratulated Mike Smith, outgoing conference president of the United Methodist Men, named a Fellow in the Society of John Wesley and recipient of the James Award.
- Approved Swanson’s nomination of John Eldridge as conference chancellor, following the April 24 death of long-time chancellor Jay Garrison.
- Rejoiced that during Swanson’s 2004-2012 leadership, members gave a total $6.05 million to missions (including Latvia, Alaska, Brazil, South Sudan) and disaster responses (Katrina hurricane, Haiti earthquake, Indonesian tsunami, local tornadoes).
- Rejoiced that during Swanson’s leadership, congregations collected 240 tons of supplies for Liberia and Zimbabwe and gave enough money to dig 27 wells in South Sudan. “We would like to thank you for following in the footsteps of John Wesley and truly seeing the world as our parish,” the Rev. Randy Frye said to Swanson.
- Presented Swanson with a ministry gift of $32,341, to be divided for clergy support in memory of Swanson’s father and domestic violence in memory of his mother.
- Recognized 16 retiring clergy and memorialized 20 clergy, one diaconal minister, and 15 clergy spouses.
- Ordained 15 elders and one deacon, commissioned 13 provisional elders and two provisional deacons, and received four into associate membership. Twenty-five local pastors were licensed.
Membership stands at 165,489, down 644 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 68,817, up 44. Church school attendance stands at 34,163, down 1,099.
Daily onsite newspapers
Delegation report by Del Holley
Other AC resources and reports
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.